Tigers extend Athens win streak with sweep of Georgia

ATHENS, Ga. – Extending a win streak that began in 2016, Auburn volleyball (12-6, 4-4 SEC) knocked off Georgia (5-13, 1-6 SEC) in straight sets (25-21, 25-19, 25-20) Thursday night at Stegeman Coliseum.

The victory is the fourth straight in Athens for the Tigers. The last three wins of the streak have all come via sweeps. The victory was also Auburn’s first road win of the 2021 season.

“Tonight, we saw balanced offense, excellent serving and a great team effort on defense,” said head coach Brent Crouch. “This team makes steps forward every week. I’m proud of their effort and growth.”

It was senior Val Green that delivered the offensive spark for the Tigers, totaling a match-leading 16. Her impressive performance was highlighted by a career-high .469 hitting percentage as Green committed just one error in her 32 attempts. She closed the night with one block and three digs to her credit.

Also ending the night with double-digit kills was graduate student Liz Reich, who chipped in 11. Junior Rebekah Rath totaled five kills in the sweep while senior middle blocker Tatum Shipes and sophomore setter Jackie Barrett each recorded four kills apiece.  Barrett landed her four kills on seven swings for a .429 clip.

In her return to action, Barrett dished out 27 assists to lead Auburn to a .241 hitting percentage. She picked up her 12th double-double of the season as she added a match-leading 17 digs. Rounding out her defensive play, Barrett closed the match with two blocks.

Auburn found success serving Thursday night, highlighted by Elif Yavuz’s debut at the service line. In her first serving attempts of the season, the senior closed the night with three aces. Freshman Fallan Lanham also added a pair of aces.

Defensively, Auburn continued its blistering blocking attack, closing the match with 13.0 total. The Tiges racked up five blocks in the second set alone as the first three points of that stanza all came via blocks.

Shipes continues to inch ever closer to Auburn’s single-season blocking record as she closed the match with eight to bring her season total to 114 blocks. Shipes is now just six shy of breaking Camila Jersonsky’s record of 119 set in 2012.

The senior also moved into a tie for second place in single-season history as she racked up her 18th solo block. Shipes moved to second in single-season history in block assists as her season total improved to 96.

Reich tied her season high with six stuffs at the net, while Yavuz was credited with five.

Rounding out the defense, Bella Rosenthall recorded her 18th double-digit dig match of her senior season as she chipped in 14. Rosenthall has totaled 386 digs this season to stand 10th in Auburn single-season history. Her career total of 1,102 is the ninth most ever recorded by a Tiger.

Rath chipped in eight digs for the Tigers, while freshman Katie Curtis closed the night with seven.

It was all Georgia early as Auburn struggled to find rhythm offensive to allow the Bulldogs to jump out to a 7-2 lead. The Tigers answered with a 4-0 run, highlighted by kills from Shipes, Barrett and Green to tie the set, 7-7. The opening set would feature two more ties before back-to-back kills from Reich and Rath provided Auburn a 14-12 lead. Auburn used impressive play by Green to build its lead as the senior finished the set with a .545 hitting percentage with six kills off 11 swings. Yavuz’s first service ace of the season pushed the Tigers’ lead to 23-18 late before Georgia used a 3-0 run to cut the lead to two. Shipes closed the set, 25-21, with back-to-back points via a block and a kill.
It was the Auburn block that set the tone early as the Tigers recorded three straight blocks before an ace from Yavuz put Auburn up 4-0. Auburn would record two more blocks to bring its set total to five and push its lead to 10-5. Georgia would use a 3-0 run to cut the Auburn lead to two, 10-8, but Green responded with back-to-back kills. Reich would follow up with a pair of consecutive kills to push the Auburn lead back to five, 10-15. Georgia used a second 3-0 run to chip Auburn’s lead to 19-17, before Green silenced the rally with a kill. Auburn closed the set with kills in its final four points to take set two 25-19.
The final set was the closest of three, featuring seven ties in the first half of the stanza. With the set tied 11-all, Auburn strung together a 4-0 run with help of a kills from Reich and Rath and a Tiger block to jump out 14-11. After trading points, Auburn put the set away with help of a late 5-0 run that featured a pair of blocks and three kills. Georgia battled late, fighting off three match points, before Reich delivered the final swing of the game to take the set 25-20.
Auburn looks to continue its success in Athens in the finale of the two-match series. Friday’s first serve on the SEC Network is set for 6 p.m. CT.

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